As soon as exams end, most students pack up and flee Ann Arbor for the few precious homework-free days in between fall and winter semesters. Dormitories close, meal plans are inactive and buildings are locked. But for a few students, going home isn’t a viable option – the hassle and expense exceeds any comforts home has to offer.
What happens to those who can’t go home? Not much. Campus becomes a different entity – an abandoned hamlet with an eerie post-apocalyptic quietness. And for students who literally live on campus, the locking up of University buildings for the holiday means a lonely two weeks without even the comfort of a familiar bed.
Students who haven’t yet nested in an off-campus abode must look to temporary, arguably acceptable sleeping and eating accommodations offered by University housing. In the past, students were given empty rooms in the Northwood apartments or Oxford Housing. Housing spokesman Peter Logan said the 10 to 20 people who took advantage of term break housing those years were then left to the Oxford room’s kitchenettes and their own ingenuity to survive the two weeks.
This year, the University arranged set up for a discounted rate at Extended Stay America Hotel, a hotel a stone’s throw from Briarwood Mall where guests can stay for days or years. Although the hotel wouldn’t release any information about how many students stay there, a representative said it’s common for students to stay there in between semesters.
The lobby of the hotel, while conveniently to-the-point for men and women traveling for business, offers no opportunities for chance meetings or room for gathering. One chair with a small end table faces the front desk. The whole place is quiet. There are no pools or children running up and down the halls to distract guests. Each room has the usual bed, desk and bathroom. Then there’s an extended kitchenette complete with a fridge, sink and stove. While the latter facilities makes the rooms operational enough, the hotel’s location leaves nothing for holiday-left-behinds to do but cruise the mall and hope to catch a bus back to town.
Of course, even taking a bus back to campus won’t provide much respite from monotony. During break, where once were whisking bikers might as well had tumbleweeds. The sidewalks that usually guide inappropriately clothed walks of shame, serviced nothing but morning jogs. Ann Arbor turns into a veritable no-man’s land, said Engineering senior Tanut Sukhumdhanakul, who stayed in his apartment during the entire break.
“It’s really quiet,” he said. “You can’t really do anything. I didn’t really do anything.”
The decision to stay in Ann Arbor was because of difficulty justifying the money and time for a 24-hour flight to Thailand for just a two-week visit, Sukhumdhanakul said.
Instead, Sukhumdhanakul played in the snow as much as possible, engaging in snowball fights and building snowmen with his few friends who stayed. Besides an escape up north to go snowboarding for a few days, he spent the bulk of each day playing Halo 3.
Sukhumdhanakul and friends hosted Christmas and New Year Eve parties, small affairs that are likely faint renderings of the epic holiday escapades campus would create if its students were allowed to spend two weeks without classes together in Ann Arbor.
But since a two-week Ann Arbor party is out of the question, the option for students looking to avoid a frozen ghost town is travel.
LSA sophomore Erina Uozumi said she went home to Japan over break, but said the most popular decision for international students is to travel – often to landmark American cities.
Uozumi, along with many other international and otherwise home-barred students, agrees that when it comes to Ann Arbor over break, if you can’t go home, get out of dodge.